Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BA Illustration

UCAS code: W220

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Illustration

Illustration is a wonderfully rich and diverse creative practice and career. You will learn through carefully structured practical projects and courses taught by supportive, experienced staff who are specialists in their fields.

In this Illustration programme we:

  • encourage experimentation, passion and play in image-making and ideas
  • nurture curiosity, criticality and empathy in the subject matter of our projects
  • explore the diverse and impactful professional contexts of illustration
  • build confidence and skills in planning, organisation and communication

You will also benefit from:

  • dedicated studio space
  • a dynamic and creative illustration community across the years
  • excellent printmaking and digital facilities
  • an extensive specialist art and design library
  • programme-specific lectures delivered by highly-regarded national and international illustrators
  • excellent connections with museums, libraries and industry that are built into projects at every stage
  • unique courses from across the University to enhance your interdisciplinary education

An excellent reputation

ECA Illustration graduates have a deep understanding of their artistic practice. They are found across the creative industries, applying their illustration skills in:

  • publishing and editorial
  • children's books
  • comics
  • games
  • education
  • craft
  • exhibitions

Design and Screen Cultures

Courses in Design and Screen Cultures are integrated with practical studio work and provide a contextual and theoretical understanding of contemporary design.

Year 1

In Year 1 you will be introduced to the theoretical and practical concepts of design.

This will initially be through a series of shared projects, leading to more focused, subject-specific outcomes.

In Design and Screen Cultures you will address the key histories and theories of design.

Optional courses

You will be able to take at least two optional courses, either within ECA or across the wider University. This depends on availability and discussion with relevant course organisers.

You should aim to select a group of courses that reflect your interests and enhance your main study.

Year 2

Through set projects and practical exercise, you will cover basic:

  • principles
  • theories
  • working practices
  • technical instruction

A range of themes will be covered in varying scales, formats and complexities.

This work demands:

  • imaginative solutions
  • research skills
  • technical facility

You will begin to create a portfolio of work made for set briefs and self-initiated work in various media.

Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose courses from across the wider University, depending on availability.

Year 3

This is a professional practice year with an external focus.

In this year, you will have opportunities for:

  • exchange
  • competitions
  • live projects


Projects will cover:

  • pictorial narrative
  • documentary work
  • observational drawing
  • web design
  • artists' books

The importance of drawing

We strongly support a creative approach by emphasising the importance of drawing as a method of:

  • expression
  • analysis
  • explanation

Year 3 opportunities

You will also have the opportunity to:

  • work on commercially focused projects
  • produce print work
  • take part in industry visits
  • take a range of Design and Screen Culture courses that explore theories of design and help you contextualise your work in cultural, social and political issues and ideas
  • study abroad, which will help broaden your understanding of the discipline

In this year you will work in illustration collectives developing business plans for self-initiated projects.

Year 4

Year 4 gives you the opportunity for self-initiated projects as well as set briefs. You will feel confident about your ability to express:

  • ideas
  • opinions
  • concerns in your work

Projects allow for greater exploration and you will identify direction and stylistic approaches towards a completed body of final-year work.

Competitions and live projects will enhance your awareness of professional practice as well as the illustrator's role in the field of contemporary art and design.

You will also complete a written dissertation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

You will be allocated a work-space within open-plan studios.

These studios will also host:

  • briefings
  • small group seminars
  • critiques
  • tutorials

Other workshops and studios are used for courses in:

  • life drawing
  • book-binding
  • book arts
  • printmaking

Study abroad

Study abroad is available in Year 3.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most design teaching and learning is through involvement in a range of experiential courses situated in a studio environment.

Conceptual, material and technical issues are explored through:

  • seminars
  • workshops
  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • critiques

Your development is influenced by research and critical thinking, as well as the following contexts that shape creative design practice:

  • visual
  • intellectual
  • social
  • professional

These elements are taught through Design and Screen Cultures courses and involve participation in:

  • exhibitions
  • competitions
  • collaborations
  • live industry projects

How will I be assessed?

We use formative assessment throughout your study. This helps us give meaningful feedback and encourages experimentation in the studio and beyond.

Formative assessment for compulsory courses can include:

  • portfolio
  • presentations
  • essays against course learning outcomes

There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any course you study.

Summative assessment at the end of all courses is informed by your:

  • academic progress
  • creative progress
  • performance throughout

Your course grades are calculated through this summative assessment plus a moderation process.

Our programmes have strong industrial pathways to ensure the most successful and meaningful careers for graduates.

We have a vibrant alumni network and strong connections with the cultural and creative sector across Scotland and beyond.

The University's Careers Service offers exceptional support throughout your time with us.

Careers Service

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements


Applicants will be asked to submit a digital portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

For more information about the portfolio, visit the Edinburgh College of Art website at the link below and scroll to the section titled ‘Application Process’.

Illustration application process

Portfolio technical support and specification

Important dates

  • 1 December 2024: portfolio submission site opens.
  • 29 January 2025: deadline for all applicants (including international applicants).
  • 4 February 2025 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: portfolio submission deadline.

BTEC/UAL Diplomas

Applicants studying Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Art and Design will be considered for entry with the following:

  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma with DMM.
  • Pearson BTEC Diploma with MM plus one A Level at A (or DM plus B at A Level).
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at B (or M plus AB at A Level).

Applicants studying the University of the Arts London Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design will be considered with Merit.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants with a Foundation Diploma will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the first year entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB, relevant HNC, etc). In some of our less competitive degrees it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These must have been achieved in one set of exams, at first attempt.

A list of accepted HNDs, along with further information for adult returners, can be found on our adult returner page:

Adult returner applicants

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BA Illustration

Additional costs

Materials and printing costs

There are likely to be additional costs for materials. The Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) shop provides most materials needed for the academic year.

An estimated budget for annual studio expenses is £200.

There are also printing costs for digital reproduction and the visualisation of projects, estimated at £100 over two semesters.

Study trips

Some programmes offer study trips and individual field-based projects. You will usually be required to pay the cost of:

  • accommodation
  • subsistence
  • travel

How much you actually pay will depend on the programme, the courses you select and the nature of each trip.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding